A-Jump Books 2006
When my grandfather died in the late 1990s, we inherited 60 years of his photographs. This consisted of some thousands of images that he took from the early 1930s until his last day on earth. Among them were clippings from his local newspaper The Iron Mountain Daily News. To say the least, these photographs were remarkable. They were quirky, tragic, and funny but most importantly they felt as though they could have been taken in any number of places throughout the United States.
Enter Ron Jude’s Alpine Star. A collection of photographs culled entirely from one of Idaho’s weekly newspapers The Star News, this book feels like a series of lost images taken from one of David Lynch’s film sets. As recently stated in an interview, much of Jude’s practice encompasses a kind of “looking at and discerning narrative from photographs that offer very little in terms of back-story”.
This context is appropriate. Jude has stripped any form of back-story from the images and presented them as bare images with no supplemental text. The imagery from this newspaper seems particularly odd; sled dogs pulling kegs, men in bathrobes lounging in chairs, photographs of prayer and portraits that were potentially used for obituaries. The struggle of man against nature also reveals itself as a theme in all of Jude’s work. As a result of the bare bones approach to the book, the images become instilled with a kind of otherworldly energy. They have been rescued from their original context and are given the chance to become a powerful sequence of photographs that were originally unaware of each other’s existance.
At a time when so much of image hijacking derives from the Internet, the methodology employed in Alpine Star is especially satisfying. Its wonderful to see that some three decades after the release of Larry Sultan and Mike Mandel’s Evidence the act of appropriating and recontextualizing both photographs and the “archive” is alive and well offering some surprises along the way.
Alpine Star is published by A-Jump Books, a small press located in upstate New York that specializes in small run photo-based projects. They have a wonderful selection of intimate books that are each worth an extended look.